Any land can produce varied crops

Raised-bed garden

“My boyhood duties included not only the usual chores of the farm and those connected with poultry and bee-keeping, horse and cow care, but canning and pickling, soap and candle manufacture, meat curing and winemaking; in fact, practically everything which characterized farm life only a remove or two from pioneer conditions.”

— M.G. Kains

“Five Acres and Independence,” subtitled “A Practical Guide to the Selection and Management of the Small Farm,” 1935, the book written by M.G. Kains, has been around for a long time, reprinted most recently in 2014.

The current lifestyle Americans find themselves in has prompted sales of this book and others much like it as people try to find ways to grow more of their own food. For those suddenly out of work, or for those at home all day, every day, feeding a family has caused a panic that simply cannot be described.

There are parts of this plain-covered green book that seem wildly passe, while entire chapters can give such detailed advice on such things as growing strawberries and other small fruits and vegetables for profit that could surely help anyone of any age make use of land that is otherwise growing grass to be mowed.

Backyard chicken coops have now returned in such numbers not seen in decades, and this old book provides information on using eggs and chickens to supplement the family table as well as its bank account. Kains provides specific advice on building the right coop with ventilation and insulation for larger numbers of hens, and how to add upward floors for expansion.

“Now that good roads are spread over the nation, and city and town dwellers are forming the habit of driving to the country for food, small farmers have an opportunity to sell them produce at a retail price. No longer need the small farmer operate under the harsh economic handicap of selling his products at wholesale prices and buying his needs at retail levels,” he writes.

He also praises the advent of electricity and the freezer in helping preserve food for a family. A chapter entitled “Something to sell every day” is the mindset in which past generations built a successful family farm.

While Kains focuses more on such things as fruits and vegetables, he also believed a family could survive by selling canned jellies and jams, meat, flower bulbs, herbs and gourds.

Whether a young person starting out or a seasoned farmer, this book focuses on the fact that any land, no matter the acreage, can produce a varied crop throughout the year.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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